Q&A – 16 October 2023

Time limitation for TRA to issue assessment

Is there no limit within which the Tanzania Revenue Authority must issue an assessment? I have received an assessment in the last 2 months for taxes dating back in 2013.
HG, Morogoro

This is covered under section 48(4) of the Tax Administration Act, Cap. 438 R.E 2019 (TAA) which provides that the powers of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to adjust an assessment expire 5 years from the due date for filing the tax return that gives rise to the assessment and in the case of any other original assessment, the date on which the TRA serves notice of assessment. Therefore, the assessment issued after expiration of this statutory time limit is invalid.

However, the law provides an exception to the 5 year time limitation whereby the TRA may issue an assessment at any time. This exception is provided under section 48(5) of the TAA which provides that there shall be no time limit on the TRA to adjust an assessment in the case of fraud, wilful neglect or serious omission by or on behalf of the taxpayer. Unless these are satisfied, it is likelier than not that the assessment issued is out of time.

You will however have to object to the assessment as is standard practice and raise this issue of time limitation amongst other arguments.

IP rights without registration

We are a leading pharmaceutical company based in Asia. Our company manufactures and exports pharmaceutical products to many African countries including Tanzania under our company’s brand name, where our product is very famous. It has recently come to our knowledge that one Tanzanian company manufactures and sells the same products under the name identical to ours. Please assist on how we can go about this situation. Specifically, please guide if we have any legal rights to enforce against this Tanzanian company, taking into account the fact that our company has not initiated the process to register the name in Tanzania.
PP, Asia

Your scenario falls under intellectual property law, more particularly trademarks. In Tanzania this is governed by the Trade and Service Marks Act 1986. Under this law, trademarks can be protected by registration in accordance with the Act.  This means that one can own and have exclusive rights to use a trademark only if such a trademark is registered in Tanzania under his or her name.

However, the exception to the above rule is where a trademark is well-known. If a trademark is well known in Tanzania it is capable of being protected even if it is not registered.  This is pursuant to section 19(d) of the Act. This position has recently been emphasized by our Courts and one must produce relevant evidence to prove that a trademark is well known in Tanzania.

You seem to fall under section 19(d) and should be able to start proceedings against the party in Tanzania. Your lawyers can guide you further.

Publishing of tax defaulter names

I am a famous artist in Tanzania and held very high in society. Some years ago, like most other businessmen, I had an issue with the TRA which I resolved but after a heavy battle. I continue to pay my instalments but recently have been told that names of those who have committed a tax offence are to be published in newspapers. Is that possible as I have never seen such an advert? Is this not defamatory?
PP, Dar

It is true that the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) is vested with such power under section 97(1) of the Tax Administration Act (TAA). The section provides that the Commissioner General of TRA may publish in a newspaper or any media of wide circulation within the United Republic a list of persons who have repeatedly failed to pay tax on time after being notified of their obligation to pay tax by the Commissioner General; have been convicted of an offence under a tax law, where the time for appeal has expired; or have repeatedly committed such an offence compounded under section 92 of the TAA.

Further, 97(2) of the TAA provides that such a list of persons under subsection (1) may specify the name and address of the person; the offence committed, the period during which the offence occurred, the amount of tax involved, particulars of any fine or sentence imposed.

Such powers are vested in the TRA and cannot amount to defamation. Having said the above, we have thus far not seen any such names being published. The TRA have been resolving a good number of cases amicably and with an intent of assisting businesses thrust forward. Your tax consultant can guide you further.

Registration of patent

My friend and I have invented a new method of irrigation. We want this method to be introduced in Tanzania but wish to patent this under our names. I heard that in Tanzania there are two registries, one in Tanzania mainland and another in Zanzibar. Do we need to register our patent in both registries? Or is it enough just to register through one registry? Are there alternatives to avoid double registration?
MM, Zanzibar

It is true that in Tanzania there are two registries where patents and other IP issues are dealt with. The rationale behind having two registries is that intellectual property does not fall under union matters and that each part of the union has a separate legal and institutional regime.

Therefore, if you want to register and protect your patent in Tanzania as a whole, it is not enough to register it in one registry alone.  You need to apply at both registries.

Alternatively, Tanzania is a member of the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs within the Framework of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization. By virtue of being a member to this protocol, it is possible to protect your patent in Tanzania by registering the same through ARIPO and designate Tanzania. Since all international treaties and conventions ratified by the United Republic of Tanzania bind Tanganyika and Zanzibar, your patent registered through ARIPO under the above protocol, will be protected in both jurisdictions. You can decide either of the two approaches to registration but we recommend that you quickly register this patent.